A/N: Sorry for not updating for so long! I've been busy with several different projects, but I promise to provide more doses of IchiGrimm in the future :) Speaking of projects, if you have time, make sure to check out my new story Walk Two Moons!

Warning: Minor spoilers for the Arrancar Arc. This story takes place after the Winter War, and Ichigo has not regained his shinigami powers.

The summer air hung hot and heavy on the hushed streets of Karakura town. The night was stiflingly still, and the streets were desolate in this midnight hour. "The witching hour," they called it, but there was nothing magical about the sweltering heat of this midsummer night.

A hole tore open in the sky.

Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez stepped onto the streets of Karakura. The humid air pressed down on him, but he could scarcely acknowledge the heat for the knot of ice in his abdomen. Gone was the cocky smirk, the confident air that the arrancar always wore. His breath came in ragged pants, and his eyes were hunted and desperate. Aizen has returned. Soul Society is in ruins.

The king is dead.

Grimmjow strode swiftly up the street. He didn't have Ichigo's reiatsu to guide him, but he'd expected that. He had walked these streets so many times in the past that he no longer needed help. Within a few minutes, he was standing in front of the Kurosaki clinic.

One of the second-story windows gaped open in a futile attempt to ward off the summer heat. Grimmjow stared at it for a long moment before he leapt – a powerful, feline movement –onto the windowsill of Ichigo's room.

The room is dark, but he can just make out the outline of the sleeping teenager. Ichigo is lying on his back, one of his arms thrown back over his head. His deep, even breathing fills the room.

He's sitting at the kitchen table, watching as Ichigo stirs something on the stove. The teenager plunks a plate of pasta down in front of him, beet-red and muttering something about never having cooked for anyone before. He takes a bite, grinning. It's delicious.

Grimmjow stares down at the ex-shinigami. He can feel the warmth radiating off the teenager's body, can hear his heart beat steadily, sense the hot blood that is pulsing under the teenager's skin.

Ichigo's body is hard and lean under his hands, but at the moment, all that power is useless, as the shinigami is nowhere near in control. He arches helplessly as Grimmjow thrusts into him deeply, pushing him over the edge, and Grimmjow smirks to hear the shinigami scream his name.

The boy's trademark orange hair is carelessly, endearingly sleep-rumpled. His breathing is soft, and the sheets are tangled around his slender form as the shinigami tosses and turns restlessly on the bed. He looks young. Vulnerable.

He's curled up with his head in Ichigo's lap, staring out the window as raindrops fall from a dismal gray sky. Ichigo's reading, absentmindedly threading his fingers through Grimmjow's bright hair. He closes his eyes in contentment at the soft caress and swallows nervously in an attempt to ward off the sentimental words that are on the tip of his tongue.

Grimmjow took a deep breath, and plunged his hand through Ichigo's heart.

I love you.

He'd meant for it to be fast, but Ichigo had always been a light sleeper. The teenager woke up the instant Grimmjow's fingers tore into his flesh, and the strangled cry that the former shinigami managed to choke out in the second before he died would haunt Grimmjow for an eternity.

Grimmjow jumped down from the window, and with gritted teeth, strode away from the Kurosaki clinic. His arm dripped blood with every step, but he shoved it in his pocket and kept walking. He never looked back.

Aizen was a sadistic and spiteful man, and the world as he knew it would never be safe again. Fuck the nightmares. Forget the emptiness.

This is the only thing I can do for you.

He would rather kill Kurosaki Ichigo a thousand times over than let him fall, completely defenseless, into Aizen's vengeful hands.

I love you, Ichigo.